‘Little backpacks:’ GPS used to track nighthawks from northern Alberta to Brazil

Nighthawks are a threatened species in Canada

EDMONTON — The whoosh of nighthawk wings is a familiar sound at dusk and scientists have figured out where those wings whoosh off to for the winter.

Researchers at the University of Alberta are part of a team that has tracked nighthawks from their breeding grounds north of Fort McMurray all the way down to Brazil

That’s a 20,000-kilometre round trip — as far as many people drive their cars in a year.

Biologist Elly Knight says the birds navigate so well they return to spots within a single kilometre from where they left.

The team used tiny GPS-enabled backpacks mounted on the backs of the birds to figure out their migratory path.

Knight says the information will be crucial in helping the species survive.

Nighthawks are threatened in Canada and all but one of their 13 populations are in decline.

The Canadian Press

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